Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Game of Thrones Bronn [Completed] aka 54 mm Nocturna Models Heroes & Legends, The Crusader

This brief back-and-forth between Bronn and Jaime Lannister in Season Six of Game of Thrones sums up what I had envisioned colour scheme wise for this miniature project. [Dialogue Begins] Bronn: Now that is a sorry attempted siege. Someone needs to teach those thud twats how to dig trenches. Jaime: Someone certainly does. Bronn: No, no. Not me. I'm just an up-jump sellsword. Jaime: You're an anointed knight! There's quite a difference. Bronn: Aye, knights don't get paid. [Dialogue Ends] In essence, I wanted to 'recreate in colours' a knight that's still a sellsword at heart. 

Nocturna Models 54 mm The Crusader resin miniature painted as Bronn the Sellsword
Game of Thrones: Bronn the Sellsword in the colours of House Lannister
Bronn's woeful expression befits his situation of a person caught up in events bigger than himself

Now what does the phrase 'recreate in colours' even mean? To me it's the use of colours to portray a certain mood and to tell a story. For this Nocturna Models proxy figurine for Bronn, the mood is one of longing for simpler days as well as of courage and willpower. The latter two is conveyed by default with the dark red hues; while orange (i.e. representing gold hues of the Lannister Lion) supposedly symbolizes strength and endurance in heraldry - two traits that Bronn possesses. Finally I painted harsh contrasts on Bronn's face to accentuate the haggard and wistful look on his expression. 

Freehand painting of the House Lannister heraldy on Bronn's leather armour
Lower part of Bronn's armour resemble a gambeson while the top half seemingly does not
Detailed scabbard and leather straps adorn the waist area of Bronn's armour
White underclothing, brown boots and green grassy base round up the predominantly red colour scheme

Any attempt to 'recreate in colours' will be for naught if the correct sculpture or miniature isn't utilised. For me, finding the perfect proxy figure was admittedly pure luck. I happened to have in my possession a 54 mm resin miniature called The Crusader from the Nocturna Models Heroes and Legends line. He provided the closest platform (in terms of facial features and period clothing) from which I could paint a proxy figurine of the Game of Thrones character, Bronn the Sellsword.

Game of Thrones, Bronn the Sellsword [Completed]
"I'm just an up-jump sellsword ... knights don't get paid."
Technically Bronn is now an anointed knight of House Lannister and no longer the mercenary he once was

Every part of a miniature's paint job is important and each contributes to the final creative whole. Nevertheless in Bronn's case there were two prominent areas of paint which were more critical than others, partly because of the miniature's relative plainness in design. So to make Bronn stand out I decided to concentrate on these two areas of his paint job. First one is pretty obvious if you think about it, namely Bronn's face comprising his facial skin tone, hair, lips and eyes. In any miniature whose face isn't covered up, it would - more often than not - be the main focus anyway.   

At its core this miniature is rather plain in design, putting the onus on the painter to bring it to life
The reds of House Lannister are dull and dark ...
... brightened up only by the golds of its heraldic design i.e. the Lannister Lion 

Meanwhile, the second area I had to figure out was how to make Bronn's clothing interesting. While Bronn in the television series didn't sport any heraldic design on his armour, he did have on an interestingly designed samurai-inspired armour. Being a proxy figure, the Nocturna Models resin miniature wasn't sculpted with such an elaborate armour. It possessed just a simple medieval armour instead. To liven things up a bit I did a freehand painting of the Lannister sigil which is a golden lion. This was done using artist colour pencils and acrylic paints (check out the process here). 

As an anointed knight of House Lannister, Bronn affords the hobbyist a more interesting colour scheme to paimt
My favourite Bronn line ... Lysa Arryn: "You don't fight with honor!" Bronn: "No... he did."
Bronn the Sellsword aka Nocturna Models 54 mm Crusader resin miniature, scale comparison

360 view of Bronn the Sellsword of House Lannister
For a 360 degree view of Bronn the Sellsword - essentially a 54 mm Nocturna Models resin figurine painted in the colours of House Lannister as seen in the latest season of HBO's Game of Thrones - please see the video below. For other videos, please visit my YouTube channel FourEyedMonster Miniatures. Be sure to choose the high definition (HD) option for the best possible view. 

Scale-wise Bronn was small enough to have made it a significant challenge for me to paint. And whenever a project provides a challenge, it always improves us as a painter. Bronn has allowed me to hone my skills at painting faces, freehand sigils and leather texture. Moreover, completion of Bronn the Sellsword should spark an outburst of miniature figurine-related hobby activity in the near future.

My ultimate aim is to paint figures with ultra realistic skin tones, facial features (e.g. eyes and lips) as well as accessories/clothing textures. That's still far from being achieved but this project has been one step closer to making my aim become a reality. Now for another step ...

Friday, 8 December 2017

Anime Review: Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (Uchū Senkan Yamato Ni-ichi-kyū-kyū / 宇宙戦艦ヤマト2199) ... and two potentially huge projects in the making

At the age of seven I was the proud owner of my first double sided pencil case, magnetic covers and all. On its cover graced a magnificent grey and red starship called the Yamato. Back then I had no idea that this cool looking space-faring battleship was from 'a seminal series in the history of anime, marking a turn towards more complex serious works'. Fast forward to 2017 and I found myself finally watching the anime albeit a modern remake of the original TV series. So with the year winding down and hobby-related projects at a lazy standstill, I present you with an anime review of ... Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (Uchū Senkan Yamato Ni-ichi-kyū-kyū / 宇宙戦艦ヤマト2199)

Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (Uchū Senkan Yamato Ni-ichi-kyū-kyū / 宇宙戦艦ヤマト2199)

What is this anime about? Genre-wise Space Battleship Yamato 2199 can be categorised as a military science fiction television series. It revolves around the trials and tribulations of a starship crew as they travel to Iscandar, a planet located in the Large Magellanic Cloud some 168,000 light years away. The year is 2199 and Earth is on the brink of extinction due to constant planetary bombardment by aliens called Gamilas. Having learned of Earth's plight, another alien race Iscandarans send technological help enabling Yamato to reach their homeworld and retrieve humankind's last hope. 

Our heroes' first glimpse of the starship Yamato is that of a grounded wreck
But a new dawn is arising for mankind's last hope against the Gamilas
Space Battleship Yamato carries the ship registry alphanumeric BBY-01

Apart from the Yamato which is obviously the main draw, a diverse and interesting cast of characters also populate the sci-fi anime series. Combination of the two gives credence to the old adage the whole is greater than the sum of the parts because together they elevate the show to a higher level. It transcends the staid recipe of archetypal characters (e.g. ship captain and main antagonist) and a commonly used sci-fi plot of aliens invading Earth. In addition to good vehicle/character design, the writing, music and animation also contribute towards an anime that is well worth watching.       

Captain Okita Juuzu is an archetypal ship captain not unlike the old man of the sea in Greek mythology ...
... and Lord Dessler an archetypal villain who is calm, cool, collected and of course merciless
Space Battleship Yamato's crew in their colour coded uniforms ala Star Trek

If I were to describe Space Battleship Yamato 2199 using comparisons with existing sci-fi universes then I would say these series most resembles Star Trek. On the surface, this is evident in the crew's color coded uniforms which correspond their respective areas of responsibility. For example pink is the medical division, orange (engineering), red (tactical), blue (science), grey (security), dark grey (fighter pilots), green (navigation), etc. Even operationally the Yamato tends to mimic Federation Starship Procedure like the formation of away teams. And of all the Star Trek series, this anime most resembles Voyager in spirit with its concept of a lone starship many light years away from Earth.

Mori Yuki (left) and Kodai Susumu (right) form the main romance arc in the 26-episode series
Any romance worth its salt needs additional conflict which Yamamoto Akira provides as Kodai's secret admirer

Character development is sufficiently deep to make viewers care for the main characters and most of the supporting cast. As such the crew are no mere extras playing second fiddle to an inanimate object that is the Yamato. If that had been the case, this series would've found it hard to retain viewer interest beyond the first few episodes. Space Battleship Yamato 2199 also treats war in a serious and realistic manner. Let me explain. A reoccurring theme in military autobiographies is the description of dying soldiers calling out for their mothers. This little known detail is depicted accurately in the anime.

Supporting casts Sanada Shiro (left) and Niimi Kaoru (right) were reasonably fleshed out via their own backstories 

On a lighter note, humour and fan service is alive and well in Space Battleship Yamato 2199. Head of the Medical Division Dr. Sado Sakezo and field medic Harada Makoto (see below) provide a fair bit of comic relief. But they aren't the sole characters around which humorous situations occur. This is spread out among the other characters too. As for fan service, the female crew (dubbed the Yamato Girls) fulfill this role gratuitously enough for it to be vividly recollected long after the show has ended. Personally though, I find fan service to be harmless so it wasn't an issue with me. 

Slapstick humour seems to be a staple of anime in general ...
... as is gratuitous fan service courtesy of the Yamato Girls
From left: Ace pilot Akira, ship counselor Kaoru, operations officer Yuki, field medic Makoto, and cadet Misaki Yuria

If you delight in fleet-level space battles (as well as fighter dogfights for that matter) then you are in for a treat with Space Battleship Yamato 2199. Animation in this sci-fi series is top notch with the first 10 episodes animated by AIC (Anime International Co.) and the subsequent ones by Xebec. I like the art style of the whole series. And although the 26 episodes has more than its fair share of CGI but it's adroitly done so as to blend in with the regular animation.

Yamato is involved in a lot of 'against-the-odds' space battles
So it's no surprise Yamato sustains incredible amounts of damage throughout her journey
Yet she can certainly hold her own and dish out devastating damage in return
Complementing the starship's considerable firepower are its fighters both in planetary atmosphere ... 
... and in space; seen above is the starship's iconic Cosmo Zero fighter

Meanwhile, well animated digital instrumentation panels on the Yamato imbue an appropriate sense of futuristic high-tech gadgetry. In other words, the world in which the characters inhabit most of the time i.e. the Yamato is a believable one. Tackiness is kept at bay completely, well almost anyway.

As the Ship Affairs Division Officer, Yuki is exposed to her fair share of digital instrumentation panels
Colour scheme of the digital instrumentation panels comprised soft pastel hues
Roman alpha-numerals and Japanese characters are the written language of choice aboard the starship Yamato 
Panels display symbols that actually make scientific sense and aren't just flashy, nonsensical show pieces

There is perhaps only one exception. To me the way that Kodai fires Yamato's most powerful weapon (the wave motion gun) was reminiscent of a 70's perception of high tech. What he does (see below) is pull out a pistol-like handle, calls out 'target scope, open', visually aligns the target and then ... pulls a trigger. I can understand if this is the director's idea of an ode to the original series in 1972, a creative throwback if you will. Otherwise, this animated sequence is an awkward wince-inducing moment.

To fire Yamato's wave motion gun, Kodai goes into a decidedly 1970's low tech mode
For a ship capable of interstellar travel, whipping out a pistol-like handle and pulling the trigger is ... well ... tacky

Yamato is an extremely versatile starship that can withstand many different mediums of travel be it space, planetary atmosphere, liquid or even a dimensional rift. For such a large starship, it is surprisingly agile too. And despite experiencing major battle damage throughout its journey, the Yamato seems to find the resources and manpower to repair itself to almost new. While a sense of incredulity may be starting to creep into my words, it is in no way a slight to the series. Some suspension of disbelieve is always needed in a sci-fi series. After all, not too long ago the universal translator was a fanciful thingamajig in Star Trek but we now have Google Translate App (while the app isn't perfect by any means, it's certainly a step in the right direction).  

Yamato flies/sails through all types of medium; here she's caught in a dimensional rift
She is also seen sailing comfortably on an alien planet's liquid medium
Of course, the Yamato is in her element when traversing the vacuum of space

Any good sci-fi show is sure to inspire a hobby modeller to recreate what he or she saw. It's no different with Space Battleship Yamato 2199 which I give a rating of 8.5/10. There are two model kits that I've my eye on and they are both from Bandai. One is the Space Battleship Yamato 2199 Cosmo Reverse Version at 1/1000 scale. It's basically how the starship looks like on her journey back to Earth. The other is the Space Battleship Yamato 2199 United Nations Cosmo Force BBY-01 at 1/500 scale. It's a bigger and more detailed plastic model kit and represents the starship early on its voyage to the planet Iscandar. I would love to get my hands on both kits in the future. 

Bandai's 1/1000 scale Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (Cosmo Reverse Version) plastic model kit
Bandai's 1/500 scale Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (United Nations Cosmo Force BBY-01) plastic model kit

[Spoiler Alert Begins] On this day over 180 years into the future, the Yamato returns home after a long and arduous journey. Well, it isn't that much of a spoiler as most viewers would've expected the Yamato to return. Essentially it's the journey to Iscandar and back to Earth that constitutes the great unknown and opportunities for good story telling. And in that the series succeeds. [Spoiler Alert Ends] In short, it's a must-watch for anime and/or military sci-fi fans.

Binge watching anime hasn't been a complete waste of time as it has allowed me to recharge my batteries. Hopefully this will translate into more finished projects soon. That's a promise. The next blog post will definitely maybe feature a finished miniature painting project. Pinky swear!

P.S. Please note that character names listed here are shown in the order of surname first followed by given name as is the norm for East/Southeast Asian naming conventions.

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